The Intellectual Divide
In the summer before their last year in secondary school, Mary asked Peter what he was going to do after graduation. Peter said he was hoping to work as a technician for the telephone company where Uncle Jim worked, and he thought he probably would get it because Of Uncle Jim’s connection.
“With your good grades, you are not going to college?” Mary asked, although she already knew why.
“No, there is no way my family can afford it. Plus, they need my income to help my younger brothers and sisters,” Peter said in resignation.
“I am so sorry, Peter.”
“That’s okay. Uncle Jim never finished college and he’s an engineer. I want to be like him.”
So Mary went on to study Chinese literature at the Hong Kong University (HKU). Peter did get a job as a trainee at the Hong Kong and Kowloon Telephone Company. They continued to see each other. Since Mary lived on campus she only came home about once or twice a month. But every time she came home she would let Peter know and they would get together.
The gradual rift in their relationship started about the second year Mary was in college. After a year there, she found out that it was getting a little awkward talking to Peter about what she did in school. Although he seemed politely interested, he also looked aloof and unengaged at the same time. So after a while Mary would try not to talk about her school too much. But then she realized school was her life and there was not much else to tell Peter about.
Peter sensed the same difficulty also. After a year working at the phone company, there was not much he could tell her that could excite her. He knew she was genuinely happy for him to have landed the best job he could, given his age and academic background. He also realized that their intellectual topics, as far as formal schooling went, were getting more and more limited.
Mary’s mom, Kathy, as much as he liked Peter ever since he was in Form II, saw this coming. She also saw that her daughter was not happy coming home one night.
“You okay, sweetie?” Mom asked.
“I don’t know, Mom.” Mary said.
“You and Peter had a fight?”
“No, Mom, we never fight.”
“I know, then what is it?”
“Ever since I went to college, we seem to have less and less to talk about.”
“Hmm…. You mean he got tired of listening to your life at HKU and you got tired of his talking about the phone company.”
“I think so, although we never said it to the other person. But I guess that is what it is.”
“You know, sweetie, Sometimes in order to keep a relationship going forward, you may have to stop and reflect, and even take a break from each other. I am not suggesting that you break up with Peter. You guys have been close friends for a long time. And both your dad and I like him a lot. But you are growing young people. Growing involves branching out in other directions too. Again, I am not suggesting breaking up with Peter, but you may want to start seeing other people and make a decision for yourself later.”
“But Mom, that feels like betraying him.”
“It does on the surface but it’s not. You have to be honest with yourself and with him too. I am not saying you should have two or three boyfriends at the same time. You may even tell him that you want to cool down for a while and start seeing other people too. He wouldn’t like it at first but I think he would understand.”
*** To Be Continued ***
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